MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s 43rd annual Symposium on the American Indian, held April 14-18, presented the large crowd that attended with information on Native issues and helped spread the importance of Native American languages, arts and cultures.
Center for Tribal Studies Interim Director Alisa Douglas (Seminole) said she was happy with the event, with its “Children: Seeds of Change” theme.
“We had good attendance throughout the whole week and a lot of great feedback from our keynote presenters,” she said. “There were a lot of topics and issues that were brought up that a lot of people could relate to. In passing, I heard some individuals sharing their personal stories or some experiences that they may have had and how they could relate to what was mentioned during those sessions.”
She said two of the more popular events were Cherokee actor Wes Studi’s keynote presentation and the American Indian Symposium Film Series showing of “Ronnie Bodean,” which stars Studi. After the screening of “Ronnie Bodean” Studi and Steven Judd, the director and producer of the film, answered questions from the audience.
“That drew a pretty big crowd,” Douglas said.
Douglas said she was surprised of the turnout that the symposium’s powwow because it was the same night as The Azalea Powwow in Muskogee. The Azalea Powwow is held in conjunction with the Azalea Festival. Both powwows took place on April 18.
“We thought that we wouldn’t have that many in number, but we had a really good turnout,” she said.
Douglas said this was her first year being interim director for the Center for Tribal Studies and main organizer for the symposium. She said she was able to succeed with the help of others and those before her.
“In the past, when Dr. (Phyllis) Fife was the director here. She was a great mentor, and she showed me the ropes. We have an American Indian Heritage Committee, so those who are really active with the committee help out tremendously. The students really help out as well,” she said. “With that support and the community support and volunteers it makes the planning and organization a lot smoother.”
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cherokee Nation citizen and University of Arkansas senior Taylor Martin has been named to the Arkansas Alumni Association’s first class of “Seniors of Significance.”
The 22-year-old from Tontitown was expected to receive a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in May. She was among 71 graduating seniors, commemorating the university’s founding date of 1871, chosen from 400 nominees to receive the “Seniors of Significance” award.
Each “Senior of Significance” received a special honor gold cord to wear during graduation.
“I felt so honored to have even been nominated for this award, as many of my fellow students were just as qualified for it. I am so blessed to have received the award and it means the world to be able to represent our senior class with such an honor,” Martin said.
The 71 students represent each Arkansas undergraduate academic college, 11 states and two countries.
“These are exceptional seniors who combine academic achievement, leadership skills and substantial extracurricular campus and/or community activities,” stated a university press release.
Martin said her experience at the university has been “incredible.”
“My degree program has proved to be very demanding, but the community that I have been surrounded with through it all, faculty and students included, has made it so enjoyable,” she said. “I would have to say that the group of friends that I have made within my degree program has been one of the most memorable aspects of my time here at Arkansas. They have been there for me through thick and thin, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.”
Her father, David Martin, said Taylor was the recipient of a CN scholarship for the past three years, which assisted her in covering the college expenses “she was 100 percent responsible for.”
“The Cherokee Nation scholarship was a tremendous help for my college career. Between it and a university-sponsored scholarship, I was able to attend college and come out debt free, which is a blessing in itself,” she said.
After graduation, she is expected to work for Wal-Mart’s Information Systems Division in Bentonville, where she said she would be part of an information technology program.
Her father agreed with the words of Principal Chief Bill John Baker who recently wrote, “Our college scholarship recipients embody some of the most important values we hold as a tribe, including personal accountability and community and responsibility.”
“I believe Taylor’s accomplishment demonstrates those values and understanding the necessity of a college education in order for one to realize a better quality of life and bright future for Cherokees,” David said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications for the Cherokee Scholars Program, which aims to help Cherokee students prepare for success in college. The deadline to apply is June 1.
“The Cherokee Scholars program is a great way for students to earn extra money for college that is in addition to funds they can receive through the tribe and their scholarships,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “On top of challenging them academically, we also hold them accountable for keeping track of their progress and recording their achievement.”
The program outlines a specific progression of academic coursework throughout high school in areas such as math, science, language arts and social studies. Students who successfully complete the Cherokee Scholars program earn funds to help alleviate the financial burden that comes with pursuing a higher education.
There are two levels of achievement within the program: the Basic and the Prestigious. The Basic Cherokee Scholars Program allows students to earn up to $4,000 for their college education by fulfilling requirements including: four credits of English, three credits of math, three credits of basic lab science, 3.5 credits of social studies and two credits in the Cherokee language, foreign language or technology.
Students interested in the Prestigious Cherokee Scholars Program must complete the requirements listed above as well as take an additional credit of math and basic lab science and complete a CN history course offered by the foundation. Students who successfully complete the Prestigious Cherokee Scholars Program have the potential to earn up to $8,000 to support their college education.
To enroll in the Cherokee Scholars Program, students are required to be a CN citizen, have a minimum 3.0 GPA and be entering seventh, eighth or ninth grade.
Applications can be found at <a href="http://www.cherokeenationfoundation.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeenationfoundation.org</a>.
For more information, contact Cherokee Nation Foundation at 918-207-0950 or Janice Randall <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
WASHINGTON – On April 2, the Department of the Interior announced it had transferred more than $12 million to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount transferred to $17 million.
“With every transfer to the scholarship fund, we are making valuable investments in the training and education that Native students need to succeed in today’s world,” Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor said. “This program is a lasting tribute to Elouise Cobell, whose vision, leadership and concern for tribal students and their families has created a living legacy for future generations of tribal leaders.”
Authorized by the Cobell Settlement, and funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, the scholarship fund provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training.
“The department is thrilled that the Cobell Scholarship Fund is growing quickly so that Native students can pursue their academic dreams to go to college or graduate school,” Hilary Tompkins, DOI solicitor, said. “The expertise, abilities and skills these students gain can help to advance self- determination and shape future leaders in Indian Country.”
The American Indian Graduate Center located in Albuquerque, New Mexico administers the scholarship fund, and the Cobell Board of Trustees oversees it.
The Interior makes quarterly transfers to the fund as a result of Buy-Back Program sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount contributed is based on a formula set forth in the Cobell Settlement that sets aside a certain amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions do not reduce the amount that an owner will receive for voluntarily consolidating their interests. The Buy-Back Program has paid more than $360 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of almost 570,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal citizens.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School senior Garrett Million has achieved his dream of studying and living in New York City.
The 18-year-old from Tahlequah was recently accepted into New York University in New York City and was offered a $65,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to four years. He plans to study theater.
“Part of the scholarship was going up and auditioning for their performing arts school. It’s a merit-based scholarship so they looked at my academics, my ACT (American College Testing) score and my audition and figured whether or not to give me a scholarship,” he said.
Million auditioned in January in New York City after Tahlequah residents raised money for him to travel.
“I had a lot of help from the community to help get me up there,” he said.
At NYU he will work toward a bachelor’s degree in theater. He said after completing his degree, he hopes to work professionally as an actor or pursue a master’s degree in fine arts.
Million said his interest in the performing arts “has always been there.” He said when he was younger he graduated from watching the children’s character Barney to watching “Gone With the Wind,” as well as admiring actors Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis, who inspired him.
He’s taken part in Sequoyah’s Drama Department productions of “Grease,” “Songs from the Silver Screen,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Beauty and the Beast.” This past Christmas he was in a variety show titled “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Also, he was just cast in “Spectacular, Spectacular,” the school’s final show of the year.
“Garrett stood out his first year in the Drama Department. He had such a bubbly personality and such an eagerness to learn all he could about theater. He has taken my class every year since his freshman semester and every day brings something new,” SHS Drama Department teacher Amanda Ray said. “He keeps up with current events, theater-related news, is incredibly devoted to his studies in all of his classes and is just an all-around genuinely good person. With a student like Garrett, as a teacher I never feel like I’m forcing a student to accept information. It’s more like getting to have intelligent daily conversations.”
Ray added that when Million decided to try for NYU’s theater program she was “ecstatic.” She said she believed in him and knew he had the talent, the grades and the determination, so she offered to help him with his auditions pieces and gave him encouragement.
“Ms. Ray, she helped me realize and made me want to further my potential and helped me want to work harder and just really inspired me,” Million said.
Ray said she always tries to be honest with students when she critiques their audition pieces.
“With Garrett I know I’m watching the beginnings of what I know will be a marvelous career. I always tried to encourage him and to reinforce that it doesn’t matter that he’s coming from a small town and that there are hundreds of students auditioning for NYU every year, what matters is that he gives a truthful audition, that his talent is real and honest, and I think he accomplished that,” she said. “He is a role model for the younger drama students and has certainly set the bar high.”
Million has also sung with the Cherokee National Youth Choir for three years and fulfilled his dream of visiting New York City two years ago when the choir sang in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to go up there and live for four years in the city that I love,” he said.
His other interests include reading, serving on the SHS Student Council, speech/debate classes, Native storytelling and being in the school’s National Honor Society group.
He also advises others who see his success at getting the NYU scholarship to not be afraid.
“If you’re good at what you do and you want to work harder at it, really, just push forward regardless of anything,” he said.
STILWELL, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Child Development Center in Stilwell recently joined the Learn to Grow Program, which gives children the chance to maintain gardens and learn about healthy nutrition.
Tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, okra and cucumbers will be grown in the gardens.
Adair County is now the sixth county in the tribe’s jurisdiction to take part in the program, which is designed to serve Cherokee children in home provider facilities and daycares.
There are currently more than 3,300 children who tend gardens within the tribe. The nine additional facilities added in Adair County bring the number of centers with gardens to 111.
According to a CN press release, the nutrition program caught the attention of the White House when first lady Michelle Obama commended the CN this past fall. In a letter, she thanked the CN for promoting the health and wellness of its citizens through the program.
“If we can teach these young kids that playing in the dirt is not only fun, but can also yield healthy and nutritious food, then that is a wonderful lesson,” said Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. “There’s a saying that I like, ‘Being on my knees and digging in the garden dirt brings me closer to God.’ Cherokee Nation’s Learn to Grow effort has so many lifelong benefits for our young and impressionable citizens that can help nourish them in body and soul.”
The Learn to Grow Program is set in place to encourage youth to go outdoors and become interested in gardening and ultimately eating healthier.
According to the release, all Learn to Grow project facilities receive training, two garden beds full of soil and multiple varieties of seeds, including summer and fall vegetables. Once ripe, the providers use the produce to prepare meals for the children.
“The Learn to Grow project is in its third year, and it is so exciting to see the children in their gardens,” project coordinator Lisa Evans said. “There is so much research that shows the health benefits the children are gaining from the gardening experience, while also increasing the likelihood of healthier eating now and in future for our children throughout Cherokee Nation.”
The CDC in Stilwell serves up to 90 children in the summer months.
The CN partners with the Department of Human Services Child Care Licensing, Oklahoma State University Extension Office, Native American Association of Ketchum and other various groups for the Learn to Grow initiative.
For more information, call 918-253-4219.